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NASCAR NEWS 

Johnson dominates at Phoenix

Winner Jimmie Johnson, Phoenix, 2009Jimmie Johnson claimed a dominant victory at Phoenix and closed in on his fourth consecutive Sprint Cup Series title.

The reigning champion claimed his seventh win of the year and his fourth during the Chase, staying in control for 238 of the race's 312 laps.

He first claimed the lead on lap 55, overtaking early race leader Kurt Busch, who retook the lead from Johnson on the first round of stops. On lap 90 Johnson passed him again and dominated from then on, taking an uncontested fourth victory at Phoenix.

The race was probably one of Johnson's strongest during the play-off and one that has allowed him to regain the momentum he lost after his crash at Texas last week. A 25th place finish at the Homestead finale would be enough for the Californian to claim the title regardless of Mark Martin's result.

"I just can't thank the team enough for staying focused," said Johnson. "Pretty bummed out after last week. Chad did a great job of kind of steering the team, keeping everybody's spirits up, focused on the right things.

"We showed up, good in qualifying trim, qualified well. Then once we had that second set of tyres on the car today, the car took off. We just made some small adjustments from there, just kept making the car better and better."

Meanwhile Mark Martin couldn't manage better than a fourth place finish, which saw him lose ground in the title race to Johnson. Now 108 points behind him, his title hopes don't rely solely on his results anymore and only a major upset for the Californian in the season finale can open up his chances again.

"I'm pretty proud of what we've done this season," said Martin after the race. "That's really all I've got to say about it. I'm proud of what we've accomplished."

Jeff Gordon is now completely out of the championship fight, despite finishing the race in ninth place. The four-time champion didn't have the speed to contend at the front, despite racing inside the top-five in the early going.

Jeff Burton enjoyed his best result of the season finishing second in one of the best outings of the year for Richard Childress Racing, at a track where they've enjoyed success in the past. Clint Bowyer was also a factor in the fight behind Johnson at some points, but lost ground in the closing stages, finishing seventh.

Denny Hamlin finished third ahead of Martin, while polesitter Martin Truex Jr was fifth, rounding out a good day also for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, as Juan Pablo Montoya finished eighth, putting both the team's cars in the top-ten only for the second time this season.

Kurt Busch, initially Johnson's main rival, fell back during a pitstop and would only finish sixth in the end. His result allowed him to close in on Gordon's third place in the standings as the best non-Hendrick car in the Chase.

Tony Stewart remained in fifth place in the Chase despite a troubled afternoon. He was one of ten cars involved in a multi-car wreck on lap 171, ignited by Dale Earnhardt Jr getting loose on the inside of Marcos Ambrose.

Another accident that involved at least six cars happened on a restart on lap 120. Brad Keselowski, making his second outing for Penske, was caught in both incidents.

Pos  Driver              Make        Laps
 1.  Jimmie Johnson      Chevrolet    312
 2.  Jeff Burton         Chevrolet    312
 3.  Denny Hamlin        Toyota       312
 4.  Mark Martin         Chevrolet    312
 5.  Martin Truex Jr     Chevrolet    312
 6.  Kurt Busch          Dodge        312
 7.  Clint Bowyer        Chevrolet    312
 8.  Juan Montoya        Chevrolet    312
 9.  Jeff Gordon         Chevrolet    312
10.  David Reutimann     Toyota       312
11.  Marcos Ambrose      Toyota       312
12.  Kyle Busch          Toyota       312
13.  A.J. Allmendinger   Ford         312
14.  Greg Biffle         Ford         312
15.  Kasey Kahne         Dodge        312
16.  Carl Edwards        Ford         312
17.  Sam Hornish Jr      Dodge        312
18.  Matt Kenseth        Ford         312
19.  Jamie McMurray      Ford         312
20.  Ryan Newman         Chevrolet    312
21.  Joey Logano         Toyota       310
22.  Robby Gordon        Toyota       310
23.  David Ragan         Ford         310
24.  Kevin Harvick       Chevrolet    310
25.  Tony Stewart        Chevrolet    310
26.  Reed Sorenson       Dodge        310
27.  Casey Mears         Chevrolet    308
28.  Elliott Sadler      Dodge        308
29.  Paul Menard         Ford         308
30.  David Gilliland     Chevrolet    308
31.  Erik Darnell        Ford         306
32.  Max Papis           Toyota       304
33.  Scott Speed         Toyota       303
34.  John Andretti       Chevrolet    268
35.  Dale Earnhardt Jr   Chevrolet    256
36.  Michael Waltrip     Toyota       251
37.  Brad Keselowski     Dodge        239
38.  Brian Vickers       Toyota       170
39.  Bobby Labonte       Chevrolet    169
40.  Joe Nemechek        Toyota        47
41.  Michael McDowell    Toyota        36
42.  Dave Blaney         Toyota         9
43.  Tony Raines         Chevrolet      6
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